Scorpio

SCORPIO: STEINHOFF ANALYSIS

Le Roux, Mbikiwa, Trengove: NPA’s A-team was ready to charge Markus Jooste

Le Roux, Mbikiwa, Trengove: NPA’s A-team was ready to charge Markus Jooste
Former Steinhoff CEO Markus Jooste. (Photo: Gallo Images / Brenton Geach)

The National Prosecuting Authority had planned for Markus Jooste and several senior Steinhoff executives to square off against its A-team next week — advocates Michelle le Roux SC, Wim Trengove SC, advocate Michael Mbikiwa from the bar and two commercial crimes prosecutors from the NPA. The disgraced former Steinhoff CEO fatally shot himself on Thursday afternoon.

It is unlikely that the 63-year-old Markus Jooste knew about the heavyweight team recruited to bring a litany of charges against him, a number of insiders said. It is, however, said that Jooste was informed to present himself for arrest on Friday, 22 March 2024.

The shooting incident happened just more than 24 hours after the Financial Sector Conduct Authority fined him an eye-watering R475-million and announced intentions to initiate a criminal case against him.

The authorities had been circling Jooste and Steinhoff executives for a long time. In recent weeks, senior Steinhoff personnel such as Piet Ferreira told Scorpio he and others had signed affidavits after giving a series of interviews to the Hawks.

Read more in Daily Maverick: Steinhoff mastermind Markus Jooste reportedly commits suicide shortly after R475m fine

The appointment of highly regarded advocates Michelle le Roux SC, Wim Trengove SC and Michael Mbikiwa from the bar had been a closely guarded secret. An insider said the initial plan was for the three advocates to be sworn in by a sitting Judge President on Friday to act as state prosecutors in the Steinhoff case. In terms of s38 of the National Prosecuting Authority Act, NDPP Shamila Batohi, in consultation with Minister of Justice Ronald Lamola, asked the private lawyers to offer their services to the prosecuting authority.

“The NPA under Batohi was sensible enough to get the very best team, and for that they must be lauded,” an insider said.

The NPA is under severe pressure as it is seen not to be moving on a long list of high-profile cases. What made the job in this case particularly difficult was cross-border money movements and information that had to be gathered from across the world.

NPA spokesperson Mthunzi Mhaga declined to comment before the accused appeared in court.

A number of sources had for the longest time endured Jooste’s “irksome” claims to all who cared to listen that the South African authorities would never be able to arrest and charge him.

The plan was for Jooste and his co-accused to face charges next week linked to the manipulation of Steinhoff’s share price, misrepresentations to third-party business people he did deals with, including Christo Wiese, Braam van Huyssteen and Jayendra Naidoo, as well as years of misstatements in the company’s annual financial statements, two insiders said.

There was no reason why the other accused could not and should not still be charged, insiders said, but both highlighted the unfortunate convenience of his erstwhile comrades now having a “dead guy to blame for everything”.

“That Jooste really was central to everything that was going on is clear. But his cronies are just as much to blame,” a source said.

A digger loader excavates on Markus Jooste’s Kwaaiwater stand on February 21, 2022 in Hermanus, South Africa. (Photo by Gallo Images/Misha Jordaan)

Jooste was found a few hundred metres from his compound in Hermanus on Thursday afternoon after he fatally shot himself at Kwaaiwater beach, Lieutenant Malcom Poije of the SAPS confirmed.

An eyewitness saw emergency personnel carrying Jooste on a stretcher, attached to drips and with a heavily bandaged head, towards an ambulance. Indications were that he shot himself on or close to the cliff path. Jooste is said to have been declared dead soon after arriving at the hospital. Police responded to the shooting incident and opened an inquest docket.

Jooste and a handful of his Steinhoff cronies were to be arrested and charged imminently, a source said – as soon as Friday, 22 March. The NPA will have to decide how to proceed after Jooste’s unexpected death.

JSE ‘darlings’

In the years before December 2017, when Steinhoff spectacularly imploded, the company and Jooste were the darlings of the JSE.

Jooste had developed a near-mythical reputation as a game-changer businessman who could spot profit-making ventures where others saw no potential. He had the Midas touch and made a lot of people a lot of money. The company listed in Germany and the Netherlands, and the Public Investment Corporation poured billions of rands into acquiring Steinhoff shares, funded by Government Employees’ Pension Fund money.

But it was a mirage.

Jooste did make some excellent business decisions, but bought just as many lemons as the next guy. Jooste and a number of Steinhoff managers are now accused of having papered over these failures by artificially inflating profits with the aid of seemingly unrelated companies — all the while moving billions of rands out of South Africa.

Epic self-dealing and related party loans exacerbated the ever-growing black hole in the company’s finances — propped up by a dizzying flurry of cross-border transactions. By December 2017, the game was up.

Steinheist: The day the fraud became clear

Jooste subsequently suffered a series of blows.

Government authorities, both local and international, have been closing in on his assets, his digital communication and all linked money flows.

An exceptionally sticky point for Jooste was that Steinhoff’s former European finance chief Dirk Schreiber received a three-and-a-half-year jail sentence in a German court in August 2023. Former director Siegmar Schmidt was handed a suspended sentence of two years. Schreiber cooperated extensively with the court and is said to have been very helpful to South African authorities, too. Jooste was also charged, but failed to show up for the trial.

Up to this point, though, none was as efficient as the South African Reserve Bank (SARB).

Extensive, multiyear investigations came to a head in 2022 when the SARB attached all assets they could link to Jooste, his alleged lover Berdine Odendaal and a number of former Steinhoff executives like Chris Grové and Ben la Grange.

SARB found that a divisional head at the bank’s financial surveillance department, Raymond Paola, has signed off on a list of suspicious exchange control applications from Steinhoff. Jooste and Grové in particular, being a former SARB official himself, are suspected of having been central to coercive attempts to cajole Paola into allegedly favouring Steinhoff. In this way, the company possibly unlawfully moved billions of rands offshore. The discovery led to the freezing of R5.5-billion of Steinhoff’s funds in the company’s local bank accounts in 2023.

SARB further took control of Lanzerac Wine Estate in Stellenbosch, four pieces of land linked to the boutique winery Klein Gustrouw in Stellenbosch, the contents of Jooste’s large Hermanus compound in Voëlklip, the Jooste family’s Silver Oak Trust and five cars registered to his wife and chauffeur. Berdine Odendaal was also under close scrutiny and blocked from knowingly or unknowingly assisting Jooste’s financial position. DM

Gallery

Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • JOHANN SCHOLTZ says:

    Normally I like your articles a lot. This one I found in poor taste. The man is dead. No need to dance on his grave the day after it happened. This is not to condone what he did, but there is something to be said for common decency and sparing a thought for his long suffering family.

  • JOHANN SCHOLTZ says:

    Funny how the NPA could muster this crack team to handle Jooste’s case while it made a complete hash of the Estina dairy case against Ace. Also seemingly impossible for them to get all the other Presidents keepers into the dock despite overwhelming evidence. Justice is not blind…

    • Hedley Davidson says:

      Agree 100% , more money down the drain . One would have thought they would go after the low hanging fruit who appeared at Zondo comission in expensive suits and proudly strutted around flaunting thier ill gotten gains , but I can only conclude that these individuals are ” royal game ” and will never see the inside of a jail . All NPA senior staff , directors and subcontract lawyers should be paid on performance only i.e – a success fee – No people incarcerated , no pay.

    • Grenville Wilson says:

      Agreed, another example is how the NPA messed up the Koko case(albeit the magistrate is allegedly corrupt). I wonder what drives this Steve dude, that he feels it necessary to make such an ad hominem attack on you?

      • Malcolm McManus says:

        We have too many allegedly corrupt people around. And the big problem is they seem to stay allegedly corrupt indefinitely. The NPA seems to be allegedly aiding and abetting the allegedly corrupt so that they can maintain their alleged status.

    • Albert Smith says:

      It’s not funny at all, the scale of Steinhoff fraud makes what Ace did look like pocket change. Get some objectivity into your life

      • Rod H MacLeod says:

        It’s not only Ace – he’s small fry. Go back and start with the Arms Deal, which is bogged down in a process that this NPA “dream team” could resolve in less than two weeks. Then move onto Guptagate. But there isn’t any political will – rather nail the white boy.

    • Penny Philip says:

      Please tell me you aren’t saying the Steinhoff case was sucessful because Jooste & company were white?? Your comment is the mirror image of things that the EFF say.

      • Middle aged Mike says:

        It wasn’t successful in any meaningful way but it certainly does stand out along with that slug from bosasa from an optics point of view. My spidey sense says that being a loyal cadre of the glorious liberation movement is excellent insurance against the minister of justice and the NPA head taking more than a passing interest in your prosecution.

    • Alley Cat says:

      I agree. Same thought sprang to my mind immediately!

  • Charles Butcher says:

    He did the “HONOURABLE” thing ,such a pity the anc don’t do likewise

    • Rama Chandra says:

      The honourable thing would have been to tell the truth in court, apologise and do the time. It is never honourable to kill yourself, hurting the people who care about you and leaving others to resolve your issues and debts.

  • Brian Harris says:

    Dear Editor,

    There is a word for someone who fatally “shoots themself”. It is “suicide”. Please try using it!

    Thanks

    • Grenville Wilson says:

      Ha Ha, well said!

    • John Patson says:

      In the South African context, there is a reason to add, at least “alleged” suicide…

    • Middle aged Mike says:

      I would be extremely unsurprised to find that calling this a suicide might be premature. The list of powerful and connected people who would benefit from not having him alive must be long.

    • Chris Brand says:

      Reason for “supposedly” could also be due to: 1] No one actually SAW the Death Certificate and ensured that it was a valid or fake one; and 2] No-one investigated whether a new fake ID and Passport has not been created falsely; and 3] No-one has actually really seen the body at the morgue and could identify it 100%. Someone who had so much “money-on-hand” (no billionaire puts all his money in one ‘spot’/’account’/’investment’/’same name’/’same company in same country’/etc and could have “made a deal” with a variety of parties (Scorpio, investigation team, anc, private airport in RSA, private airline, customs, etc.) and have flown out of the RSA, to be joined later by either his family or worse his lover to join him later. Also as sated, some of the people he owed money to, could have ‘had him taken out’.
      So the above are at least 2 reasons for using the words “allegedly ” with “suicide”.
      Even the Guptas could have “shown him the ropes” to join them or just how to “elope with most of the money” out of the RSA.
      I have heard another billionaire state recently that someone once said: a] I have money that only my wife, my banker, the Lord and I know off; and b] money that only my banker, the Lord and I know about; and c] money that only the Lord and I know about; and d] money that only I know about. { called “investing in diverse portfolios” }
      So as far as the reporter/writer/Scorpio knows, the phrase “alleged suicide” is the truth, until proven otherwise (no fake certificates)

    • Chris Brand says:

      Reason for “supposedly” could also be due to: 1] No one actually SAW the Death Certificate and ensured that it was a valid or fake one; and 2] No-one investigated whether a new fake ID and Passport has not been created falsely; and 3] No-one has actually really seen the body at the morgue and could identify it 100%. Someone who had so much “money-on-hand” (no billionaire puts all his money in one ‘spot’/’account’/’investment’/’same name’/’same company in same country’/etc and could have “made a deal” with a variety of parties (Scorpio, investigation team, anc, private airport in RSA, private airline, customs, etc.) and have flown out of the RSA, to be joined later by either his family or worse his lover to join him later. Also as sated, some of the people he owed money to, could have ‘had him taken out’.
      So the above are at least 2 reasons for using the words “allegedly ” with “suicide”.
      Even the Guptas could have “shown him the ropes” to join them or just how to “elope with most of the money” out of the RSA.
      I have heard another billionaire state recently that someone once said: a] I have money that only my wife, my banker, the Lord and I know off; and b] money that only my banker, the Lord and I know about; and c] money that only the Lord and I know about; and d] money that only I know about. { called “investing in diverse portfolios” }
      So as far as the reporter/writer/Scorpio knows, the phrase “alleged suicide” is the truth, until proven otherwise (no fake certificates)

  • Geoff Holmes says:

    Nothing “honourable” about committing suicide – it’s just the final middle-finger to the authorities and all those investors in Steinhoff who lost their savings. Cowardly behaviour to the end…

  • Mike vd Walt says:

    Well he did say they will never arrest and charge him!

  • Deon Schoeman says:

    When will this so called A team charge all the state looters with Zuma and Ramaphosa ??

  • JAJ Stewart says:

    A sophisticated thief they can line up for civil and criminal charges bringing the highest calibre of legal firepower. Barefaced crooks and hustlers adorning our pages daily are beyond the NPA’s scope. What could be going on, one wonders.

    • ST ST says:

      If you’re unsophisticated enough to steal a R1k you probably can only afford unsophisticated legal protections. If you’re sophisticated enough to steal R1 billion, you have equally sophisticated lawyers to get you out of the tightest of corners.

      Although stealing these large amounts doesn’t seem to be wholly explainable through sophistication. Case in point JZ et al. So you can simply be a tool (as in instrument although some may choose a different interpretation). Nonetheless, equally expensive, sometimes crooked lawyers are part of it.

  • ST ST says:

    It is true that the A team must demonstrate its prowess across the spectrum of corporate and political corruption. The two are often in bed with each other anyway.

    Staging belated raids doesn’t count. Yes politicians apparently close ranks and the evidence from cooperating parties is hard to find, unlike in this case. Endless delays allowing people to destroy and hide evidence. For us mere mortals it is blatantly obvious. How is it that politicians, theirs families and friends and families suddenly become multimillionaires?! If it’s so easy, why not all of us? Track the sources of wealth from pre and post 94, it doesn’t seem impossible to connect the dots between corruption and wealth. But I’m no law wizard!

  • Geoff Coles says:

    Another failure by the NPA …… too late by far!

  • Anesh Govender says:

    Well at least Markus Joostes last act was to ensure that the authorities never got to charge him. What is disappointing is that it took six years and a bit to build a case. He should have been in jail on day 1 based on the auditors reports. Like everybody else i wonder if the same zeal is being spent on Zondos implicated crooks. I would very much like to see the crack team rolled out again and again…

    • G CS says:

      I think many people in the country who lost big chunks of their pensions as a result of his crookery will want to go to the funeral to make sure he really has gone for good.

  • Lounge Lizard says:

    Jooste finally took accountability for his actions and “offed” himself. Probably long overdue. Perhaps some others should do the same and prevent years of taxpayers expense having to prosecute and incarcerate them.

  • Skinyela Skinyela says:

    Suicide is not regarded as “doing the honourable thing”, under any culture.

    Societies frown upon that act, they regard it as cowardly and selfish, more especially if you leave your family and other loved ones in trouble.

    Worse if/when your very own family might be evicted.

    • Lounge Lizard says:

      Whether you are alive or dead, your family will bear the brunt of your criminal actions. Just because you are in prison, doesn’t mean that SARS won’t take your house and put your family on the street.

  • David Burger says:

    I would like to know where the auditors were in all of this!! They surely have a case to answer? Did they really not know what was going on.

  • David Burger says:

    I would like to know where the auditors were when all of this was going on!! Surely they have a case to answer??

  • Peter Feddersen says:

    Claas Daun und Stehan Grobler sollten sich überlegen Markus alsVorbild zu nehmen.

  • Agf Agf says:

    He should have been arrested and charged years ago. This long delay only meant an increased flight risk or suicide which is exactly what happened.

  • wilna helmi says:

    N.P.A. ‘s ‘ crack team” … the word ‘crack” reminds us of a sinister body part

  • Norman Sander says:

    The man made a fortune by falsely driving the share price up and he and his cronies made a fortune when they sold off.
    he hurt pensioners through various pension funds (including state employees pension funds) who had invested in Steinhoff.
    I personally never buy retail stocks, having worked in the industry most of my life and understanding the volatility of the business sector. I also developed and managed shopping centres and knew the importance of very close scrutiny of leases and demographic research to establish viability of any particular product/products. Another thing you dont do is not diversify in retail. Having one product only, like, for eg, mattresses just leaves you more open rapid changes in their saleability. The American business, was overtraded and Jooste paid double the asking price, which immediately had the effect of pushing the share price up.
    Thievery, on a grand scale.
    I have no sympathy for the man. I feel sorry for his kids though.

  • Debbie Collins says:

    He did what all our politicians have been doing for decades, he lived a good life now its over.

    Next lets see if as much evidence can be found regarding
    Ramaphosa
    Zuma
    Ace
    Cele
    The Aunty….

    I doubt!!!

  • Ndabenhle Ngubane says:

    The hypocrisy in these comments is unthinkably disturbing. No no wonder South Africans still vote along the racial lines. SAD!

  • Siphosakhe Kukhokonke says:

    A dead thief must not be spoken about? No lies have been said about him in this well written article. No decency should be given to a thief, dead or alive, and his family lived on stolen goods. He put a lot of families into grief, mine included.

Please peer review 3 community comments before your comment can be posted

X

This article is free to read.

Sign up for free or sign in to continue reading.

Unlike our competitors, we don’t force you to pay to read the news but we do need your email address to make your experience better.


Nearly there! Create a password to finish signing up with us:

Please enter your password or get a sign in link if you’ve forgotten

Open Sesame! Thanks for signing up.

We would like our readers to start paying for Daily Maverick...

…but we are not going to force you to. Over 10 million users come to us each month for the news. We have not put it behind a paywall because the truth should not be a luxury.

Instead we ask our readers who can afford to contribute, even a small amount each month, to do so.

If you appreciate it and want to see us keep going then please consider contributing whatever you can.

Support Daily Maverick→
Payment options

Become a Maverick Insider

This could have been a paywall

On another site this would have been a paywall. Maverick Insider keeps our content free for all.

Become an Insider
Elections24 Newsletter Banner

On May 29 2024, South Africans will make their mark in another way.

Get your exclusive, in-depth Election 2024 newsletter curated by Ferial Haffajee delivered straight to your inbox.